For Bilena Settepani, food and family go hand in hand. The 25-year-old manages her family’s restaurant and bakery, Settepani, which has locations in New York’s Brooklyn and Harlem neighborhoods.
“Settepani, which is first and foremost my last name, means ‘seven breads’ in Italian,” Settepani told In The Know. “My dad always jokes that my first job was when I learned how to walk, I was following the busboys, giving bread.”
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Settepani practically grew up at the restaurant. She pointed out the spots where she used to sit and do her homework while the rest of her family worked. The restaurant and bakery are reflections of her parents’ rich cultures and backgrounds — her dad is Sicilian and her mom is Ethiopian.
But Settepani never felt like it was expected that she’d take over the business. In fact, she wasn’t really sure what she wanted to do for a career — besides knowing that she enjoyed marketing.
It was in March 2020 — when Settepani’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and her dad became visibly stressed out about the pandemic’s impact on small businesses — that she decided to step in as a source of positivity for both her family and the restaurant.
Depending on the day and what’s needed, Settepani could be start off in Brooklyn, making panettone dough with her dad at 4 a.m., or she could be in Harlem, brainstorming ways to make the bakery more accessible to everyone in the neighborhood.
“When I decided to take over and manage both locations, I realized one of the things that we needed to incorporate and do a better job at was using our social media as a tool to help us,” Settepani said.
Settepani brought her family’s restaurant and bakery into the 21st century with an Instagram account that now boasts over 4,000 followers.
“I’m constantly trying to learn from previous generations because I would love to be someone important in this industry,” she said. “I think it’s important to know as much as I can absorb about different cuisines, different restaurants … I want everyone to feel welcome here.”
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